All that Glitters
Jun 14, 2018
Picture it. You're writing (or about to start writing) a legal document and all of a sudden you get writers block. What do you do? Well, if you're like me, you go take a nap or order up a pizza and drink a liter of root beer. If pizza and root beer isn't your thing, maybe you might just head on over to their local county law library for a change of place.
Thing is most county law libraries in southern California provide access to either (or both) Westlaw or Lexis for the public to use and enjoy. The problem is that as helpful as Westlaw and/or Lexis may be, there are a number of helpful resources that are not online and are still helpful to anyone from the pro se litigant to the seasoned attorney who knows everything.
Yeah, yeah, I know, that's gonna be a shocker for some but having been n the legal research biz for over two decades, I can tell you from experience that there are some sizable golden nuggets in the stacks of your local county law library that only the savvy researchers know about.
For example, have you ever heard of "The Problem of Proof?" Writen by Albert S. Osborn and published in 1922 by Matthew Bender (yeah, the Matthew Bender now owned by Lexis), The Problem of Proof (hereinafter "Proof") is an easy read (well, easier than some legal treatises) on how to set up and massage the facts you plan to use as you prepare to litigate.
While it is old (I mean, 1922?), Proof is still a relevent resource in the digital age as it provides sage advice designed to help the legal practitioner develop the facts of a case with an eye towards preparing for trial.
Broken down into 25 chapters, the initial chapters cover matters leading up to and appearing in trial. Chapters 2-4 guides readers (and researchers) with the how of developing a case, chapters 5-7 examine working with expert and specialist witnesses, and Chapters 9-14 focuses on understanding the importance of the words utttered by the attorney in trial.
The balance of the book deals with working with various tools and resources that help to present a case in trial. For instance chapter 17 relates to typed documents, chapter 18 deals with Anonymous letters, chapter 20 speaks to how to deal with perjerers and charlatans, and chapters 22 and 23 on the handwritten testimony of law witnesses.
The two chapters that drew my interest were chapters 15 (advocacy) and 16 (persuasion and practical psychology in courts of law). The chapter on advocacy examines not so much how to represent their client as much as it is how to they should represent the legal profession. Osborn writes,
"There are lawyers who at once get purple with rage at any criticism of the law or of legal procedure of this character, expecially if criticism is made by one who is not a lawyer."
Have you ever met a lawyer that hasn't flipped when someone (who is not an attorney) bad mouths the legal profession, as a whole? Oh, there are some to ignore such comments but I know a number of judges that bristle when someone make a joke about judges or how judges judge.
Then, in chapter 16, Osborn examines the power struggle between opposing counsel and the importance of persuading not just the jury but also the court, as a whole. Osborn notes that,
"A trial at law is simply a competition in persuasion. It is a contest where many influences are brought to bear to persuade a judge or a jury to take certain action. Law is administrered through the minds, the consciences, the emotions, and the prejudices of men [and women]."
Isn't that the truth! When engaging in litigation, it's the attorney's job to examine all participants in a court case and use (or manipulate) the various vactors that go into achieving a favorable outcome (i.e. winning).
In any event, Proof is but one example of the kind of off-the-shelf print resources the Riverside County Law Library has on hand to help even the stalwart of legal eagles get their head in the legal game.
Bret is a Legal Research & Instructional Services Librarian at our Main Library.